Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New Pictures: Jeanne - athletic, dynamic

I just uploaded a set with Jeanne - it's a very dynamic set, full of motion. I'm extremely pleased with it!

Unless something unexpected happens that's it for this batch of shoots... but I'll update with some more FAQ questions and I'm already starting to schedule shoots for February so it won't be long!

Monday, January 30, 2006

What's your gear like?

This is probably the second most commonly asked question. And in some ways it's a weird question because in a lot of ways it doesn't really matter - it's kind of like asking a chef what kind of pots they use. Note that this post is a moving target and was last rewritten 10/09.

I shoot Canon (for SLRs anyway). Went digital in March, 2003 with a 10D and got a 20D in December 04 (I think) and a 40D and a 5D in January 08. For figure work I'd say the 17-40L and the 100 f/2.8 are the most useful lenses with the crop camera and with the 5D the 24-105L kit lens is a great choice. Speaking roughly, I use the 5D for studio work and landscapes, and the 40D for things that move around a lot and may not be close (sports, wildlife). I also have a 50 f/1.4 which is very useful for low light (as an example, nighttime urban nudes using just ambient light). And that leaves the 100-400L for wildlife, airshows, etc.

I've started shooting film again to a certain extent. I got my 35mm SLR working but haven't really used it that much. It's more a question of enjoying larger formats and totally different camera designs. In medium format I have a Mamiya TLR 330 and a Holga 120N and a Mamiya RB67 and an Agfa Isolette II. In large format I have a Crown Graphic. I also have a digital point and shoot which is featured here mostly in an underwater case.

The studio's very simple. The background is seamless paper (white or gray usually) or black cloth hung on a couple of lightstands with a bar across them (comes in a nice carring bag, made by Savage who also makes paper).

The lights are a moving target. As of now I have both Alien Bees units and White Lightning units which are made by two sister companies (owned by the same guy). So depending on which year a particular shot was taken it could be with any combination. A surprising amount of stuff I do requires a single light - don't think you need a ton of gear to produce some cool results. Right now I have White Lightning X800 and X1600 units (two each) for normal studio use and an AB800 as a beater/travel light. I used to have an AB400 which I've since sold.

I have a variety of modifiers - I use an octabox (don't like the square catchlights of a softbox) and I use honeycomb grids quite a bit and have some other odds and ends you'll see less frequently. I'm using the folding octoboxes with grids a lot right now and they're very useful. I use a beauty dish now and again which is kind of old fashioned but I like it. I use stripboxes too, but mostly in close to the ground (sitting poses).

I have a variety of light stands - mostly C stands of different sizes. I have a boom to get the light overhead when that seems like a good idea.

Having wireless receivers on every individual light is a big help - no cables, and with the directed light I use much more reliable than relying on the optical slaves on the lights. I use the AB/WL units so I have four receivers and two transmitters (if I use both digital and film it's great for each camera to have a transmitter). If you get the battery receivers you can also use them to trigger battery powered strobes off-camera which is useful if you want a lightweight set of gear.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

More Maternity News

As a followup to my thoughts yesterday, I put a little blurb about maternity photography (pregnancy photography) over on the Honest Portraits site. It will be interesting to see if it sparks any new business. It seems to me that there must be people out there who want something a little different, especially in and around San Francisco. On the other hand maybe the people who do that full time are churning out the same images over and over again because that's what people want. That's OK, I'm happy to just do portraits for people who want something a bit different...

Update: I did eventually find some very nice maternity photos - I'll even give her a plug - Jennifer Loomis Photography - but she has operations in three cities with a "team" of photographers so I'm not sure who took what in the portfolio. Still, worth a look.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New Pictures: Clarissa - First Maternity Shoot

I just uploaded a new shoot with Clarissa. It was my first maternity shoot (i.e. with a pregnant model). I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

As a side note, after the shoot I was showing somebody some websites of photographers who specialize in maternity shots and realized there's really only about four shots that make up 90% of what they do. I'm not sure how much I want to increase the amount of portrait work I do, but I suspect in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area there's a lot of folks who would like something a bit different.

Where do you find your models?

I thought it might be useful to put some frequently asked questions in here as well... and by far the most frequently asked question is "Where do you find your models?"

And there's really two answers, depending on why you're asking.

If you're just curious, here's the answer: A lot of them are some kind of referral. I ask models who they think I should work with, models send me friends, friends send me friends. Sometimes people contact me through my website (there's a do you want to be a model page). There are a variety of websites that exist to help models and photographers get together, and I post on Craigslist occasionally. Given that I also like to shoot with people I've worked with before and I only do so many shoots it's not that hard to fill my schedule.

If you're a beginning photographer: The thing is, it's really, really easy for me to find models. I have to turn people away all the time. There's a variety of factors - it helps that I have an established portfolio, I do classy work that appeals to the models themselves, and it's easy for models to check up on me (they don't even ask for a reference, they just recognize somebody I've worked with and ask around). So what you really want to know is how did I get started. If you're just starting out get together whatever kind of a portfolio you can. It's easier if you do non-nude shoots first. Probably the two most useful websites are the artists section on craigslist (although that comes and goes - sometimes you get way more photographers than models) and ModelMayhem is the best of the model related sites right now, although that changes (Update: ModelInsider is the big up and coming site at the moment and the forums are more pleasant if you need advice. Get accounts both places). Obviously it's easier to find people to do nudes in an urban area or college town - if you're in the middle of nowhere all I can suggest is doing what you can and consider meeting up with folks while on vacation.

I've never done some of the traditional things like hand out business cards to pretty girls, put up flyers at colleges (although I really should try that someday), put ads in student papers, etc. etc. but I'm sure they all work to one extent or another.

Model Links

I've put just a couple of links in the "Model Links" section off in the sidebar. I'll be slowly adding these as I have time (ha!). If you're a model I've worked with and are wondering why you're not there... pure laziness. Please send me a note and remind me of the URL for your website and I'll put it over there.

(If it gets unwieldy I'll put them on their own page or something)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Welcome to my blog!

I'll start out with a recap of the new shoots for 2006.

Kat outdoors at the bulb (on a bright sunny day)
Kat outdoors at the Bulb (this time in the fog)
Finch - Very nice model, includes a few corset shots
Erin - Half Chinese half mixed European.
Fierce - a new model to me. Six feet tall and all trouble!

Coming up I have two shoots I've already done but haven't edited yet. Past that I don't have any shoots scheduled (I need a break!) except for some portrait work which of course won't appear here - part of the point is that it's very discreet.

The other bit of news is that my print lab is switching over to Kodak paper as of Feb 3rd. "Kodak Professional Supra Endura Paper" in fact. It's probably not a big deal - I've used some of the other Kodak papers and they're nice, and in some ways it's good for me in that I was using Fuji Professional Crystal Archive and people think they know what that's like because they've seen the non-professional version at Costco (the consumer grade papers are much more flimsy). So maybe this will be more clearly "different".